Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Abandoned" Chinese Crews

Is there any evidence to support claims that Chinese crews were "abandoned" in Nevada once CPRR construction was completed?

Some examples of this myth:

Early American History Auctions writes: "The Central Pacific railroad gave birth to the town of Elko in 1868 as it pushed its tracks eastward. On New Year's Day in 1869, there were just a few tents among the sagebrush, but two weeks later, hastily laid out plots were selling for $300 to $500 each. By late 1869, Elko's population had climbed to 2,000. From that beginning, the town grew rapidly as a freight terminus to supply the mines in the region. In May 1869, when the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Point Utah, linking the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads, the Chinese laborers from the Central Pacific's track crew were abandoned. On foot, hundreds headed west and many stayed in Elko. The Chinese built the first water system in Elko." [It turns out that this statement included in an eBay live auction was quoted from a Wikipedia article. When a correction was submitted to Wikipedia, it resulted in the original statement being deleted.]

"Elko is the sixth largest county in the United States, consisting of 17,181 square miles, as big as five of the New England states plus the District of Columbia. In May 1869, when the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Point Utah, linking the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads. The Chinese laborers from the Central Pacific's track crew were abandoned. On foot, hundreds headed west and many stayed in Elko. One of their chief occupations during the summer months was the raising of vegetables for the town. Their gardens were mostly on the northern banks of the Humbolt River and were watered by hand. Eventually the Chinese built the first water system in Elko. They built a reservoir and dug a ditch to carry the water from Osino to the reservoir, a distance of 8-10 miles (right through what is now City Park)." —Elko Area History according to the Eklo Area Chamber of Commerce

Iris Chang wrote: "Of more immediate concern, the Central Pacific immediately laid off most of the Chinese workers, refusing to give them even their promised return passage to California. The company retained only a few hundred of them for maintenance work, some of whom spent their remaining days in isolated small towns along the way, a few living in converted boxcars."

[emphasis added]